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COVID-19: Poll suggests most teachers have no confidence in the government after education U-turns | UK News

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poll results

More than nine in 10 headteachers say they don’t have confidence in the Department for Education’s decision-making, after schools were closed and exams cancelled due to the pandemic.

Millions of children are being taught remotely and students will no longer sit their 2021 exams because of sharp rises in COVID-19 cases.

Now a survey of over 1,000 headteachers carried out by campaign group Worth Less?, and shared with Sophy Ridge on Sunday, shows these last-minute decisions have sharply eroded confidence in the government.

In the poll 52% of headteachers said they have no confidence in the DfE’s decision-making, and 41% have “hardly any”. Just 6% said they were “fairly confident”, and only 1% said they were confident.

Jules White, headteacher at Tanbridge House secondary school in Horsham, and leader of the Worth Less? campaign, said: “Every headteacher has sympathy for the government in the pandemic, but the inconsistent messaging, U-turn after U-turn, has been very difficult to deal with.

“The goal posts seem to change every five minutes, we waste time, resources and energy, and most of all children and parents are not getting a consistent message either.”

He added: “Just before Christmas schools which were thinking about closing because of public health risks were threatened with legal action.

“Then over the Christmas myself and other headteachers really busted a gut to try and put in place mass testing plans, which were pretty flawed in the first place.

“Then, just before we go back, we have to move children to online learning.

“It’s just bewildering and almost impossible to manage.”

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‘We’ll trust teachers, not algorithms’

At the start of the month Boris Johnson assured the public there was no need to close schools, saying “there is no doubt in my mind that schools are safe”, before backpedaling and shutting them in a speech announcing the third national lockdown.

Another 62% of those polled said they thought teachers should be moved higher up the vaccination schedule to help schools reopen.

The government has previously said teachers wouldn’t be prioritised. Although, on Thursday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said told MPs teachers had a “good case” to be included in the next stage of prioritisation for vaccine deployment.

poll results

The government also announced this week that examinations would be scrapped in 2021 and replaced by teacher assessment.

The survey showed most teachers agreed with the decision – with 91% of heads saying it was right to cancel exams.

But an overwhelming majority also said the government should have announced full alternative plans at the same time.

poll results

An overwhelming 92% said: “Comprehensive contingency plans for alternative grading systems should already have been set out by the Department for Education.”

A spokesperson for the DfE told Sky News: “We know this is a challenging time for schools and pupils.

“That’s why we’re launching a consultation with Ofqual next week on the best options for alternatives to exams, to ensure every young person gets a fair grade for their work.

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“Grades will be based on teacher assessment and support will be provided to ensure grades are awarded consistently and fairly.

“Every major public health decision we have taken has been guided by the best scientific and medical advice, and we are working to ensure the best possible outcome for schools and pupils.”

Catch the full report, including interviews with the head of Ofqual and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, on Sophy Ridge on Sunday from 8.30am today

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COVID-19: Lebanon’s health service close to collapse with case numbers beyond ‘wildest predictions’ | World News

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The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse

The head of Lebanon’s main coronavirus hospital has said the country’s health system is close to collapse – with not enough beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators or staff.

In a stark interview with Sky News, Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax coronavirus restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and deaths over the past few weeks.

He allowed our cameras into the casualty department and the intensive care unit of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital in Beirut to see the pressure he and his staff are under.

Dr Abiad said all hospitals were reporting full, or almost full, intensive care units – and many have patients stuck in emergency wards, waiting for a bed.

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Dr Abiad said the government has thrown the healthcare system ‘into an abyss’

“Some patients are not able to find a bed and there’s been several cases where patients have died in their homes,” he said.

“If you look at the sharp rise in cases you see that Lebanon is really seeing unprecedented COVID numbers which is even beyond our wildest predictions.

“The number of daily new cases has almost quadrupled since where we were almost a month ago,” said Dr Abiad.

“At the same time we’ve seen that the number of deaths has also tripled and the number of patients in ICU has gone up by almost 100%.”

On 17 December, four days before a nationwide lockdown was due to end, the government decided to ease a series of restrictions for the holiday period.

Under intense pressure from businesses, they allowed nightclubs, bars and restaurants to open at 50% capacity while urging people to wear masks and maintain social distancing.

But videos on social media over Christmas and New Year showed packed clubs and bars. No attempts were made to crackdown on the violations.

“It’s clear that those were catastrophic [decisions] and what has happened is they’ve thrown the whole healthcare system of the country into a major abyss,” said Dr Abiad.

In the casualty department, the pressures are obvious. There is a shortage of beds, drugs, oxygen, ventilators and staff.

It is a relatively modern hospital but it looks sparse, except for the number of patients.

A nurse strokes a patient’s head.

“I am passing out… I am passing out,” he tells the nurse.

“No, no! You’re doing very well. Don’t be scared. Your oxygen is good. 99%. Honestly it’s very good,” she reassures him.

In the next bed is 53-year-old Aida Derawi. She first began to feel unwell 15 days ago. Her family had hoped she would recover at home, but this week things got worse.

“Yesterday I felt I couldn’t take it anymore,” she says. “My back and lungs were aching. My kids took me around to find a hospital but not a single one would accept me.”

Eventually space was found and she is improving slowly.

Nurse Hussein al Khazn tells us that in this wave of the virus, the patients are no longer predominately elderly.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over a few fateful days at Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse. Pic: Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad
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Red Cross volunteer Waad Abdulaad is very much on Lebanon’s frontline

“Much younger now,” he says. “Before we had 50, 60-year-old patients.

“Now it’s 20, 25, 30-year-old patients and they’re very, very critical – all of them.”

On the other side of the city, we’re given access to the Lebanese Red Cross coordination centre.

In a well-organised control room, a team of volunteers is juggling telephone calls from patients’ families with radio calls to the ambulance teams on the ground.

“So, she’s ill with coronavirus?” a volunteer asks down the line. “So she’s got shortness of breath?”

A radio message is sent to one of the dispatch teams.

“We’re dispatched to a patient that tested positive for COVID and she’s currently suffering from desaturation and vomiting,” volunteer medic Waad Abdulaal says from the passenger seat of the ambulance.

“So we’re going to go ahead, assess her and see if there’s a need to take her to the hospital.”

Lebanon was already in a critical state economically.

Years of accumulative economic mismanagement has led to a slow collapse in every sector of society.

That was then exacerbated by the pandemic and the devastating port explosion last year.

The director of Lebanon's largest coronavirus hospital Dr Firas Abiad said the government decision to relax restrictions over Christmas and New Year has led to a huge increase in cases and healthcare is on the verge of collapse
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Ambulance crews carry an 80-year-old woman down a flight of stairs in darkness due to another power cut

Up several flights of a stairwell, in darkness because of yet another power cut, the Red Cross team reaches its patient.

Madame Imad is 80 years old. She tested positive last week and her diabetes is complicating her condition. She needs to go to hospital, but there is an issue finding a bed for her.

The positivity rate across the country this past week has been at 21% (the 14-day rolling average).

That means the community spread of the virus is out of control. It needs to be at 5% before there is any chance of regaining a grip of the crisis.

Calls are made and they think space has been found at a hospital nearby.

Madame Imad is carried down the stairs as her daughter Sophie looks straight into our camera and pleads: “Show them that there are people dying before they reach the hospital.”

The elderly woman did make it to the hospital. But she was sent home again. There were no beds. Her family has told us her condition this weekend has worsened.

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COVID-19: UK records another 1,348 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,552 cases | UK News

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COVID-19: UK records another 1,348 coronavirus-related deaths and 33,552 cases | UK News

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COVID-19: Three hospitals criticised for not vaccinating vulnerable inpatients | UK News

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COVID-19: Three hospitals criticised for not vaccinating vulnerable inpatients | UK News

Vulnerable inpatients who are eligible for a COVID-19 jab are not being vaccinated in at least three hospitals in England.

Sky News has seen evidence of hospitals telling the families of elderly non-COVID patients that they are only vaccinating outpatients, and not those staying overnight.

Some 17.5% of COVID-19 patients caught the virus in hospital, according to analysis from the Daily Telegraph.

Maria Thompson’s 80-year-old mother has been in Merseyside’s Whiston Hospital with an autoimmune disease for more than a week.

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Campaign launched amid ‘very precarious’ situation

“The hospital has given my mum wonderful care”, Ms Thompson said.

“But as a family we have been really worried about my mum being in hospital. She has come into contact with more people in 10 days than she has in the past 10 months.”

St Helens and Knowsley NHS Trust has not responded to a request for comment, but in a message to Ms Thompson, a staff member confirmed: ”We are not yet vaccinating inpatients”.

They cited challenges moving the Pfizer vaccine around the hospital, and concerns about recording who had received the jab.

In Northampton, a relative (who wished to remain anonymous) told Sky News of the case of his 85-year-old father, who has been in the town’s hospital with non-COVID health problems for more than five weeks.

He will soon be discharged to a care home.

“The doctors and nurses have been brilliant. But as you can imagine given dad’s age, health and location we were very keen for a COVID-19 vaccination pre-discharge. Apparently it isn’t hospital policy,” he said.

“It’s a massive burden discharging him into a care home without the comfort of this protection, especially now knowing that home had multiple deaths in November.”

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Northampton General Hospital have declined to comment, but in a message to the relative, the trust’s chief executive Deborah Needham wrote: “Unfortunately we are not currently vaccinating inpatients as we are unable to book them in & have them back on site for the second vaccine.”

However, Ms Needham indicated the situation was under review.

Sky News understands inpatients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge are also not being vaccinated. The hospital has not responded to a request for comment.

NHS England have also been contacted, but have yet to provide a response.

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